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Managers need to develop organizational sensitivity

Betsy dislikes her coworker, Jon.

One day in the office, Betsy whispers to another coworker that she thinks Jon is weird and standoffish.

Jon overhears the conversation and is surprised to find out Betsy feels that way about him. He doesn’t know how to react so he just stays silent.

However, he can’t shake off that comment and begins to feel uncomfortable at work. His productivity at the company starts to decline, even though he was typically a top performer.

Maryanne is Jon’s manager and she notices his work is slipping and he’s quieter than usual. She’s been meaning to talk with him about it, but been too busy to schedule a sit down talk with him.

After feeling increasingly more dissatisfied at work, Jon starts sending out his resume to other companies. He eventually gets a job offer, and leaves the company.

Betsy is happy, but Maryanne is distraught, confused, and now has to go through the process to hire someone to replace him.

If Maryanne had taken the time to find out what was bugging John, she might have been able to keep a top performer. 

Productivity suffers in workplaces characterized by criticism, gossip, and a lack of teamwork, according to a new Right Management poll of 1,404 HR professionals and senior business leaders.

The survey find that 61 percent of organizations suffer from negative behaviors that, in turn, makes employees struggle to focus on their work, with 36 percent saying negativity sometimes impacts productivity. Only 3 percent say their employees are staying positive and not affected by negativity.

If negativity catches hold in an organization, it can become contagious. This negativity emerges itself in sarcastic remarks, lack of productivity, and other behaviors. And it is hard to stay motivated in that kind of work environment.

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You don’t want this negativity to result in turnover, so it is crucial for managers to be aware of what is going on within their group or organization. Managers can’t afford to turn a blind eye toward internal politics and complex interpersonal issues.

And while the reality is that not everyone will like one another, the manager needs to ensure that everyone at least respects one another and finds a way to work as a team.

This is why organizational sensitivity is a key managerial trait. Here are a few ways to develop it:

  • When people seem to be experiencing low morale or having difficulty, talk with them to find out what is going on. Sometimes people will not want to say much, but they will appreciate that you noticed and showed concern.
  • Identify and prioritize longstanding or unresolved conflicts within your team. Develop a strategy to address them. People may welcome the opportunity to talk openly about issues that have been simmering and will have excellent ideas for solving them.
  • Notice if there are things in the work environment that you can change. Not all problems require financial or upper-management solutions; many can be resolved through addressing them creatively.
  • Ask your employees what you can do to be a better leader or a better boss for them. Implement some of their recommendations to show that you take their input seriously.

What are your thoughts about this? How do you handle workplace gossip?